Efforts to boost ICU capacity are struggling because internationally sought-after nurses can't get into the country, even after accepting job offers and despite the threat to New Zealand from Covid-19.
Some critical care nurses who are already in New Zealand on visas are leaving for much higher paid jobs in Australia and elsewhere, after immigration delays meant they couldn't plan ahead.
Concerned ICU leaders are set to jointly write to the Government to ask for urgent changes.
"Hospitals have got people from overseas who would like to come to work with them, but they are struggling to get them in through MIQ. Then there is a backlog of processing things with the Nursing Council. And there are problems with visas," said ICU doctor Craig Carr, who is the NZ regional chair of the Australia NZ Intensive Care Society.
"The frustration is that even if you interview and get someone, it's a real struggle to be able to facilitate them to get into the country.
A shortage of the highly-trained nurses is one of the main reasons why actual, day-to-day ICU capacity hasn't improved since the Covid pandemic began, despite the Government putting up more funding and buying equipment like ventilators.
National's health spokesman Dr Shane Reti has recently called on the Government to explain why more ICU bed spaces haven't been secured. The party also wants visa categories to be reopened and residence applications prioritised for critical healthcare workers, as well as offering residence class visas on arrival to experienced nurses.
Dr Reti says the short term solution is relaxing our immigration settings to let in the nurses offshore. A longer term solution is to train more nurses here. But he says that’s a seven year plan.